ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The Mountain West Conference reprimanded New Mexico coach Steve Alford on Monday over his heated exchange of words with BYU forward Jonathan Tavernari, despite the coach’s insistence it was just a byproduct of a hard-fought game.
In a video posted on YouTube, Alford can be heard directing a vulgarity at Tavernari while the teams shook hands after New Mexico’s 83-81 victory last weekend in Provo, Utah.
The Mountain West issued a statement late Monday, saying Alford had violated the league’s sportsmanship rule and warranted a public reprimand “for his unduly provocative language toward an opposing student athlete” after the game.
Alford attributed it to the emotions of the moment and said he called BYU coach Dave Rose to apologize.
“It happened in a competitive nature,” Alford said. “I don’t think there’s any harm done.”
The reprimand was issued the same day New Mexico climbed to No. 8 in The Associated Press rankings, up two spots from last week’s poll.
Alford said he was trying to congratulate Tavernari, a senior, on an outstanding career at BYU. Tavernari has played in more victories than any player in BYU history, missing out on No. 100 against the Lobos.
“That’s really what I was just trying to tell him after the game, just how much I appreciate what he’s done over his four-year career,” Alford said. “He’s a competitor. He didn’t want to hear that at that time. Then we just exchanged words. It was unfortunate.”
Alford also noted it was Senior Day in Provo, where BYU had won 21 straight games, and New Mexico’s victory lifted the Lobos into first place in the Mountain West. Given all the emotions involved, he said the verbal exchange, while unfortunate, can be explained.
“That’s why they give players and coaches a 10-minute cooldown before you address the media,” Alford said. “It’s because of emotions like this. In the handshake line, you don’t get that. Everybody is still fired up about things.”
Minutes later, Tavernari was escorted by BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe to wait outside New Mexico’s locker room while the Lobos celebrated. He apologized to Alford, and according to the Albuquerque Journal, Alford replied: “You’re still one of my favorites.”
“If I could, I’d apologize to the whole team,” Tavernari said.
“You don’t have to,” Alford replied. “You just shocked me. You’re one of my favorites.”
“I just lost my cool,” Tavernari said.
With 52 seconds to play and the game tied at 80, tempers flared between Tavernari and New Mexico’s Darington Hobson after the two players bumped at midcourt. As he was calling a timeout, Hobson extended an elbow toward Tavernari.
During the timeout, Tavernari remained visibly upset.
Officials reviewed the sequence on video but no fouls were called against either side. The coaches were summoned by officials to midcourt for a quick meeting. Coming out of the break, Hobson offered a handshake to Tavernari but the BYU player ignored it.
Alford said he had reviewed video of the game and didn’t feel there was anything that warranted a reprimand by the Mountain West against himself, Hobson or New Mexico’s assistants, who also jawed with Tavernari in the handshake line.
“And I definitely don’t think there’s anything warranted along Jonathan’s way,” Alford said. “I think it was just two really good teams and, like I said before, it’s unfortunate that somebody has to lose in a game like that.”
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